Philip Brewer's Writing Progress


Thursday, 10 January 2002

No writing to speak of yesterday or today. I'm steeling myself for the hard part.

In my previous draft, the characters in the story had relationships that were plausible, but weren't satisfying. In my first-pass rewrite, I changed things to make the relationships more satisfying, but now they don't ring true. To behave in a way that produces the satisfying outcome, they would need to be different characters.

It would be nice if I could now just retrofit the characters to the actions I've preordained. That sometimes works, but it's not going to work this time. This time I need to do it the hard way.

This is the next thing I need to work on, anyway. A year ago I needed to work on plot, but (after Clarion) I've got plot mostly figured out. Now I need to work on characters.

This isn't news to me. More than one person at Clarion told me this. Everyone told me, "Your character doesn't seem to care when [this or that bad thing] happens to him!" (It wasn't that the character didn't care, of course, but he didn't seem to. Making a character seem is hard enough, and I wish I could convince myself that the next thing ought to be brushing up on the tools to make a character seem. I know better.) James Patrick Kelly said, "You need to put more of yourself in your stories."

That's the hard part.

The reason the relationships rang true before is that they were based on real relationships. Relationships that I've been in, or seen close at hand. The only way they're going to ring true again is to go back to the real relationships that I've known and mine those experiences for the things people care about. What makes a woman be attracted to a man? What makes a man try to own a woman? Why do men do stupid, self-destructive things over women--and when do women find these behaviors attractive rather than off-putting?

I need to wrestle with these things, and not just in the abstract. I need to look inside myself and find these traits in me and use that to get my characters to ring true.

That's the hard part.


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